**Photo of the best champagne I’ve tasted to date, enjoyed Christmas Eve.
So this is how the story begins.
At Christmas, someone asked if everyone had New Year’s Resolutions. I realized I didn’t have anything picked out the way I would have in the past. Normally I would have things such as “Run more!,” “Do a marathon!,” or “Improve my dressage scores by five points.” My resolutions were more like “To Do” lists. Thinking about my lack of resolutions when asked didn’t concern me. I realized I didn’t really want any.
Things are good right now.
But reflecting further, I decided a “Not to Do” list might be beneficial.
So this year is going to be my “Year of Austerity.”
The first thing to go is coffee. Even though I’m not one to overindulge in much, I am definitely a creature of habit. It’s easy for me to reside in “default” mode. I hope removing some of my ingrained habits, one at a time, for a month at a time, will shake things up. Maybe it will make me question why I do the things I do and define what they actually mean to me.
Not that I don’t know what coffee means to me. I love it. So I’m coming out of the gate of austerity strong. I think giving up sugar for a month will also be a struggle. But there are other things, such as Facebook and shopping on Amazon, that are too easy to do and arguably take up too much of my time.
I think I need to re-evaluate not how I spend the big chunks of my time, but the little slivers of time in-between.
Like I said, things are good right now. I feel like I haven’t said that in a while. Years, in fact. Having dinner with friends over the holidays, all of them remarked their 40’s were so great, and how things get so much harder after that. I think they meant physically harder, but before anyone could elaborate, I piped up, “Well, my forties sucked ass!” I proclaimed this realizing they’re not even over yet. My outburst surprised them, especially when they reminded me I recently got married.
But I’m not sure anyone, not even close friends, can comprehend how painful it is to lose everything—your career, your home, the best partner you ever had Eventing, and also some of the people who I thought of as close friends. It was startling to discover that the lifeblood of many of my friendships resided in the framework outside of the friendship. The possibility that convenience could be the defining factor of a close friendship never dawned on me. While I’m not blaming anyone for the loss of our friendship, I do have to admit it was painful and disappointing at the time.
I apologized to my husband after that particular dinner. Marrying Russ was not only the best thing that happened in my forties, but he is the best thing to happen to me, period. Russ challenges me, supports me, and he loves me with all of his beautiful heart. I can but hope he receives the same from me in return. At the very least, I try very hard to give him that.
I realize now it isn’t my forties (which aren’t even over yet, as I said before) that have sucked so badly, but more like the last ten years.
Good riddance to the last decade.
My last ten years sound like a bad country song:
I got divorced.
Six months later, my brother-in-law dropped dead at the age of 41, leaving behind my sister and their 5-year old daughter, not to mention his parents, his brother.
I lost my job, lost my house, lost my business, and it all ended ugly with a lot of hurt feelings.
I had a very bad accident. I lost the horse, who was the best horse I’ve ever had the privilege of riding.
His name was J.B. Star.
I started over, yet again (this would have been the fourth time in my career by then), thanks to the help of some amazing people.
There was a sweet spot that lasted a couple of years before that too ended.
I was faced with starting over yet again, from scratch, which starts to feel more like a life of bad decisions than a series of unfortunate incidents.
(I always say “Once is an accident or a mistake. More than once is a choice or a habit.”)
So I started over again, from scratch, but this time I went in a completely new direction, right out of the horses.
This had its own set of challenges being in unfamiliar, brand-new territory. But I did it and I’m proud of myself for doing it.
Just as the dust started to settle, I lost Cracker. My little shining light who was there through it all. I am so grateful for his friendship. As I went through a lot, so did he.
Happily. Oblingingly. Sweetly. Always by my side.
Then I got sick and my bad country song continued like a broken record. 2019 was a year of doctors and hospitals, surgery and recovery. But I’m still here. I just have another scar to add to the others. Only difference is this one is visible. That in itself feels like an improvement.
This Christmas, everyone in my family was present. All of the grandkids were there; my parents were both there; my sister and I with our new husbands, our new beginnings. We pulled crackers at the dinner table. As a result, everyone performed the “movie” charade found inside their cracker. Besides the laughter that ensued, it wasn’t lost on me that for the first time ever, there were no generation gaps in the conversation or the cultural references. Sitting at the table, seeing everyone’s smiling faces, listening to their laughter, I thought to myself, “This is such a sweet spot. Right here, right now. In this very moment. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
I made a video for my parents that I gave to them Christmas Eve. I had their slides from the ‘60’s made into images and added old photographs to the mix. It was a walk down memory lane. So many good times were had by all. The video also made my dad sad. As he said, “Almost half of the people in the video are gone.” He’s right. They are.
But aren’t we so blessed to have shared time with them?
It has been a rough decade for me, but I know I’m not the only one, by far. There are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I will ever have it.
Like the man I sat to on the plane coming home from Christmas. I saw him before we boarded. A young man, he walked like he was geriatric, bent over with a cane, pushing his roller bag along.
He was also a dwarf.
Once seated, he had to fold his legs under him, because leaving them dangling so high above the floor for hours was too painful on his back.
He traveled with a pillow to help create comfort out of an otherwise completely uncomfortable situation. What struck me about this person who, let’s face it, had been dealt a shitty hand, was how nice he was. I’m not suggesting dwarfs can’t be nice. What I’m saying is this was a person who, despite his odds, despite surviving fifteen back surgeries, despite being crippled and enduring multiple hardships, was not a person who was trying to be nice, but a person who was nice, from deep inside his heart all the way out his clear brown eyes and down to the smile on his face. He blew me away. I knew if the tables were turned and I was in that exact situation, I would be pissed. I would hate God and be mad at the world, and here I was facing this man, who had found peace in his life, and couldn’t wait to visit his cousin and see all of his country’s capital city.
I aspire to be as good of a person as he clearly was.
Hardship does have a way of smoothing out the rough surfaces. (Notice I didn’t say edges. I still have plenty of those and I earned every single one. My edges are proof of the lessons I’ve learned.). But with hardship comes clarity, and with clarity comes wisdom and peace.
The silver lining.
This is what I wish for all of my loved ones, for all of my friends, past and present.
To find the silver lining amidst the chaos, the inevitable pitfalls, the undeniable loss that comes with living a life well lived.
To find the sweet spot and to savor it.
So welcome, 2020.
I’m glad you’re here.